How to start making money on photography?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by BratNikotin, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. Hello, community
    I am getting some ideas that it is about time I start realizing some material gain from my hobby as a photographer. Over the past years I have invested quite a deal into equipment and recently purchased first full frame camera with lens, and plan for some other lenses to invest into in near future.

    I photograph just about anything. Where do I start looking to find if there are opportunities to make money on what I do? I honestly do not know where to start....
  2. Sports, people, journalism, art, documentary . . . Where are your interests? Are you in a city or out in the country? Do you realize that "photographic skill" is pretty low on the list of requirements for a photographer? The same goes for a "full frame camera and lens". I've worked with crop cameras for almost 20 years and Michael Kenna recently published a book of Holga photographs. Where have you looked? What have you done?
    BratNikotin likes this.

  3. I did not mean to sound as if I bought a full frame camera in order to start doing business.
    My interest are in .. I suppose it can all be called documentary.
    I mostly shoot concerts and events. Some street photography too.
    What do you mean, when you say "Where have you looked"? I vaguely understand that I will need to "present myself" somehow to some publishers or make myself "visible" by some means. (If this is what you mean). But .. I do not know how to approach...
  4. Well . . . Then you have to look at who might pay you to shoot concerts and similar events.

    Do you have a concert portfolio? If not, look for some local bands who will let you shoot in exchange for images for their website or Facebook pages. Your end clients will first be local weekly newspapers if you go out and cover "events" (which takes in a LARGE arena of things). Go shoot and then see if you can get an appointment to meet with someone there to look at your photos. They might have some assignments. They may, or may not pay. But, you will need to start getting some images into print before people will come looking for you.

    Both areas that you are saying are interests are very difficult to earn a living in. Documentary work is very thin anymore as is concert work.

    When I asked "Where have you looked?" I mean where have you looked to get work? Have you looked at the work of others who are doing what you want to do?
  5. Do you have a web site? Do you have a portfolio of pictures that we can see?
    As Ed Farmer said, the ability to take good pictures is perhaps the least important skill in becoming a money-earning photographer. Do you have any business skill, training, or experience? Do you realize that every person who owns a digital camera, especially a full frame "professional" camera, thinks he/she is a professional photographer and is looking for exactly the same thing, a way to make money from their photography. What do you have that sets you apart from everyone else with a camera?
  6. There are a lot of factors involved in selling photographs online. Its a saturated market and your photos really need to stand out in order for them to sell. Just go to a photography website like 500px and look for some images related to the niche of photography you're into. If you feel your photos match the quality or are better, you should consider ways to make money out of it. Here are some ways you can use your current photos to make some extra cash:

    1) Get yourself registered on stock photography sites like Shutterstock. Since there's no limit on the number of images, try to upload all you high quality images with appropriate titles and keywords. Keep adding regular photos for a passive income. The amount you receive on each image is as low as $0.20 per image, so make sure you focus on adding images regularly.

    2) Build your own website using a platform like Pixpa or Zenfolio. Once you build a portfolio website, Pixpa will allow you to integrate an e-commerce store on your photos so people can buy digital or physical prints of your works. Make sure to market your website on social media profiles and optimize it for search engines. Once your website starts ranking for business keywords, it'll automatically bring you regular sales.

    3) There are literally hundreds on online competitions being held around the world. Find the ones in your niche and try your luck with all of them. Some would be free, some would have a nominal fee. Plan according to your budget.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Concert photography is extremely tough when it comes to money making. Photographers fight over unpaid jobs, let alone the ones that pay. And getting paid for it generally requires a very strong portfolio. Quite a few publications now use fairly low quality snaps by their writers.

    Street photography isn't going to make anyone money.

    Sports photography pays, real estate photography pays, event shooting pays. All of these are basically "assignment" photography. If you have a studio, you can do portraits and product shots. Other than sports and maybe portraits, most of this is not "fun" photography, it's a grind and can be very technical. I did well with real estate photography, pay running $250/hour, but I was shooting in a high-priced market. Events paid well, but not that well but required a lot of automation in post, there was a learning process on that. Real estate and events paid on-time every time.

    Stock photography is a waste of time unless you have a specific niche that doesn't have a lot of photographs. Usually that requires specific access. At one point in time, I had the largest collection of muay thai photos from the US and did very well with it. But nature, lifestyle, architecture, etc., all those categories are filled with great photos.
  8. Spearhead speaks with straight tongue.

    Nowadays, everybody is a photographer. And many kinds of photography are facing competition from computer-generated images.

    I don't know what the odds are for an amateur making it to professional status, but I am sure that
    "Many are called, but few are chosen"
    Matthew 22:14

    i.e., don't quit your day job right away.
    AJG and movingfinger like this.
  9. I don't know where you are, but you can probably find at least a few "open mic" nights, jam sessions etc at which aspiring musicians and performers would love to get some good pictures of themselves on stage. Small club owners and local promoters / agents are also looking for high quality pics for their marketing, websites etc - and many (OK - most) are too "frugal" to hire a professional photographer. Show up early enough to find the best vantage points before the performers start and get some great shots. Carry a tablet to show them to the subjects as soon as they leave the stage. Do not show them on your camera's display! Then promise & deliver prints and/or digital files within 24 hours at a fair price, and you'll probably be able to build a local following within months if you're good. Print up some cards and get out there!


    PS: Editing can really help sell this kind of pic - here it is with the blemishes "adjusted":

    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
    ed_farmer likes this.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    They do love to get them (if they're good photos) , but it may only get you a good seat at their next show, a free drink, and maybe good company at their table. IMO If you want to monetize it, give free samples first, then see if you can make a deal.
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Or a CD.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Exactly what I've done.
  13. You gotta know when to hold 'em & when to fold 'em. Performers with reputations or strong momentum toward a reputation (even if only local) often participate in open mic nights to discover new talent and to sell their CDs etc. If they're already paying for graphics & other support, they'll pay you too if they like your work....and they'll adopt you if they like you more. For those just starting to perform, free work is both a charitable act and a sound investment. And if you connect with the next Springsteen at the beginning of his or her career, you'll grow & prosper together. I've been using USB sticks for years instead of CDs. You can get them imprinted with your name, logo etc for less than $2 each

    On the other hand, many club owners take advantage of everyone in sight - I wouldn't recommend offering a free sample to them unless you know them personally. I've been a musician for about 60 years, 30+ of them as a member of Local 77 of the AFM. My picture's been taken and used in print and web ads many times for clubs, promoters, party planners etc, rarely with my consent and often without my knowledge. I think the best way to get a positive response from this group is to bring them a few prints of performers at their venues that make their places look really great. If you find a club with pictures of performers on the walls, you might gain business by getting one or more great shots into the gallery as long as you're clearly identified as the photographer & contact info is made available.
  14. Physically handing out images to bands, seriously? In 2018 you “hand them out” on Instagram. Connect with them there and more importantly, with their audience.
  15. "It depends"...

    This thread's not about business planning for photographers, but you're describing what's really a strategic plan - so it's certainly relevant. Your vision for the business determines your strategy for achieving it, and your strategy drives your choice of tactics for execution. Social media play a major role (sometimes the only role) in marketing for many performers. But you need to elicit the "voice of the customer" to learn each one's approaches & preferences, so you know if and how your approach would fit with theirs. Only after you know what pleases a potential client can you most effectively implement your business development strategy to engage him/her/them. Having backed major national acts on guitar, bass, keys, and horn for decades, I can attest to the almost unbelievably wide spectrum of personalities & preferences among performers. They all bring joy, some when they arrive and some when they leave :)

    Although many artists take to the web for communication, many (especially early in their artistic careers) still prefer a personal connection with potential business resources even if web content & social media are the intended pipelines for presenting their work & communicating with their audiences. Go over and meet each one after shooting a set. Their response to a friendly overture begun with a compliment & a smile will establish a relationship that will tell you more in 30 seconds than you'll ever learn about them by simply posting their pics on Instagram. Even if you take the social media route, they'll have a connection with you if you give them a USB stick or CD or whatever you like with a few great images and your contact info. I put a small gallery of my pics on it, add 1 or 2 of the "recruit" on the fly (editing with Snapseed on my tablet, if necessary), and include all my web references. But, as I said in an earlier post, I don't think freebies are appropriate for all comers.

    BTW, I absolutely love your work, Phil ! Your website is an inspiration.
  16. Giving away images on Facebook or Instagram can be a way to introduce yourself to the band and their fans but it does nothing, maybe worse than nothing, to promote your business. The social platforms are built around a "free" model. Moving from their to selling anything is a difficult path. When you post on Instagram, the band and their fans can download your image, use them as wallpaper or even print them, all without any control of the image by your OR the band. You're talking about giving something away without the permission of the subject. Not a good business practice or model.

    Give the band prints and tell them that you can deliver digital files for their use.
  17. That’s the wrong headspace to be in if the aim is in promoting your photography as a potential business (concert or band photography) by means of another creative field like music. It’s not about giving your images away for “free” it’s about willingly sharing them not only with the band but with a community that’s already there for the taking (all the fans of the band). It’s also easy to connect a print on demand store with Instagram so that people/fans who follow you could buy prints straight from Instagram. But the Instagram is mostly there as a funnel to your website, which can be a blog about…I don’t know…the evolution of band photography, or concert reviews, or being about a specific genre that has very devout fans…anything to do with music basically. The blog shows that you’re passionate about the subject and in turn, is there to drive views to your commercial services. Potential customers are the band or their management, the local venues the bands play in, and their fans. All of this is hard work and a grind. But it is possible.
  18. Yes. But I think instead of a cd (it's unlikely that non-professionals in imaging still use devices with an inbuilt CD, let alone an external one) or USB stick better to go all old school and give them a print. The USB/cd stick is easily lost and forgotten about. Maybe take some polaroids at the concert (flash could be an issue, though there are ways to take polaroids of your digital images) and hand those out with your contact details (slap a QR code sticker to your Instagram/website on the back) as unique calling cards.

  19. Also, learn to shoot and edit video. That's where the real potential is. Make some great music video for a semi-famous local band. It doesn't matter if it takes you a year. Think long term. Of course, you also have to know to pick the right band and music and whatever is "trending".
  20. With tongue in cheek I'll tell you the best way to make money with photography, either write a book on "how to make money with your camera" or just sell all your equipment and walk away. Kind of like the old saying that the two best days in a boat owner's life is when they buy the boat and when they sell it.

    Seriously, with the prevalence of dslrs and cell phones with excellent cameras, it's really, really hard to make money with your camera. Best options are either sports team photography or weddings. Neither of which is the most fun or fulfilling.
    jerry_m and Sandy Vongries like this.

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